According to Parkinson’s UK around 145,000 people in the UK live with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological disorder caused by loss of specific nerve cells in the brain. It’s the fastest-growing neurological condition in the world.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s is caused when clumps of abnormal, microscopic proteins called Lewy Bodies form in the brain and, as they build up, they cause damage to your brain cells. It’s a progressive condition, which means that it gets worse over time.
What are the causes of Parkinson’s disease?
We don’t know for certain what causes Parkinson's Disease. Most experts believe it's a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. In a small number of patients, there’s a strong family history of Parkinson's developing at a young age – probably because of gene mutations. In other patients, the condition may have been caused by head trauma or drugs. But, for most patients, there’s no clear cause.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
The main symptoms are due to abnormal motor function. This means that specific movements of your body’s muscles are affected. This could be a tremor when your hands or feet are at rest (known as a ‘resting tremor’), slowness of movement (known as bradykinesia) and stiff limbs or torso. You might also notice that your balance is affected, which increases your risk of falling due to not being able to correct a sudden change in your posture. You might also notice that walking becomes slower, and you feel unsteady on your feet.
There may be non-motor symptoms, which can include issues with controlling urination, constipation, sweating, feeling dizzy when you stand up and cognitive symptoms such as problems with your memory, difficulty concentrating and difficulty planning day-to-day tasks.
In some cases, you might also develop visual hallucinations or psychological symptoms such as increased anxiety and obsessive, compulsive behaviour.
What are the stages of Parkinson’s disease?
- Stage 1 is the early or mild stage of the condition
- In stage 2 the symptoms get worse, but you’ll still be able to manage your daily activities by yourself
- In stage 3, basic activities like dressing and eating are more restricted, and you may be at greater risk of falls
- In stage 4, the symptoms are severe. You may need a walker and help for your basic daily activities
- Stage 5 is the advanced stage where you are chairbound or bedridden and need round-the-clock care
Many patients won’t necessarily progress through all the stages.
What’s the difference between Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s?
Parkinson's disease starts off as a disease which affects your motor function. Some patients develop cognitive problems which may be severe enough to be classed as dementia. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia, where cognitive problems are present from the beginning, and are the main symptoms.
The brain changes in a different way in these two conditions. Parkinson's disease is associated with abnormal deposits of Lewy Bodies, whereas Alzheimer's is associated with abnormal deposits of a protein called Amyloid into a tangle of fibres called Neurofibrillary Tangles.
At what age are people most likely to develop Parkinson’s?
Parkinson's becomes more common with age. It’s relatively rare below the age of 50, unless there’s a strong genetic predisposition, then it becomes more common. About 1% of people over 60 have Parkinson's with about 2% of people over the age of 80.
Is there a treatment for Parkinson’s?
There are several different medications which can be effective in controlling and reducing the motor symptoms of Parkinson's. Therapies such as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy as well as diet and mental health input can also be helpful. For more advanced cases, treatment may include specialist surgery such as deep brain stimulation.
What should I do if I suspect I have the symptoms of Parkinson’s?
If you’re worried that you may have Parkinson's, you should see your GP and ask to be referred to a Neurologist, who has experience in diagnosing and treating this condition.
Can I get treatment for Parkinson’s disease at Benenden Hospital?
Our neurology specialists are all experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's and will be able to help you. To find out more, or to book an appointment, please complete our online form or contact our Private Patient team via Livechat or on 01580 363158.
Published on 11 April 2023